Bodies of Art:
In late 2018 under the fresh directorship of Nick Mitzevich, the National Gallery of Australia unveiled an exciting rehang in the form of Bodies of art: Human form from the national collection. Across two new sculpture galleries, a huge array of extraordinary works of art traverses genre, gender and time through investigations of the human form, from Jeff Koons’ Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice to a 12th-century celestial maiden sculpture from Rajasthan and Francis Bacon’s Triptych. The galleries place contemporary and ancient works side by side to examine the human figure throughout history. The human figure is one of the most enduring subjects of art. Representations of the body have changed as social conditions and artistic expressions evolve. Spanning art-making across hundreds of years, this display invites viewers to consider what it means to be human. The rich national collection has been mined to reveal excellent examples across the curatorial theme. Nineteenth-century sculptors such as Paul Montford and Bertram Mackennal capture the female form in bronze, while Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud challenge ideal representations by abstracting and distorting elements of the body to explore psychological expression. Elsewhere, Annette Messager takes us on a journey inside the body, while Ron Mueck’s monumental hyperrealist sculpture Pregnant woman (2002) shows the origin of human life.